Side effects and safety issues.

- The consumption of xylitol (a food item) produces very few side effects. Medical studies have confirmed that this naturally-occurring sugar compound is safe for use with both adults and children. It is not safe for pets.

Xylitol sugar.

Xylitol sugar can be used at the table or in the kitchen.

There should be little concern about safety issues for those who want to consume xylitol as a preventive for tooth decay.

It's a naturally occurring compound.

  • Xylitol is found naturally in a number of fruits and vegetables (including strawberries, raspberries, pears, cauliflower and plums).
  • The human body produces between 5 and 15 grams of xylitol each day as it metabolizes carbohydrates. (It's an intermediate compound in the glucuronate-xyulose metabolic pathway.)
  • When manufactured, the starting agricultural product is usually birch trees or corn cobs.

Xylitol regulation.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies it and has approved its use as a "food additive" (1963).
  • In packaging and advertising, the FDA allows manufacturers to make the claim that xylitol products "do not promote dental caries."
  • Worldwide, it's been approved for use in foods, pharmaceuticals, and oral health products in more than 35 countries.
  • The World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives and the European Union’s Scientific Committee for Food have both approved its use.

Side effects.

Makinen (1976) studied the effects of xylitol consumption on fifty-two humans over a two-year period. On average, members of this test group consumed 1.5 kg of xylitol per month, which averages out to roughly fifty grams per day (over four times the maximum adult daily dosing suggested for preventing tooth decay).

No ill effects were found, with the exception of the minor/manageable side effects discussed in our next paragraph.

Gastrointestinal side effects.

If there's an area of concern, it's one related to gastrointestinal side effects. Xylitol is digested slowly in the large intestine and ingesting comparative large amounts of it can create a laxative effect (soft stools or even diarrhea).

It usually only creates gastrointestinal problems when it's consumed at levels that approach fifty grams per day (over 5 times what most adults need for cavity prevention). At lower levels, lesser difficulties may be experienced such as flatulence, minor stomach cramps or nausea.


The incidence of these symptoms will vary with each individual and are typically dose-size related. A reduction in either per-serving or daily-dosing amounts usually provides a remedy. Other solutions can be to get a greater portion of your xylitol exposure from sources that can be spit out (mouth rinse, toothpaste) or, if necessary, cease your xylitol consumption all together.

Toxicity to pets.

In 2006 the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center issued a press release warning of potentially serious or even life-threatening problems caused by the ingestion of xylitol-sweetened products by dogs (due to the hypoglycemic effect it can produce). More recently, there has been a report that xylitol may create this same ill effect with ferrets.

For this reason, it's recommended that all pet owners should always remain vigilant in their efforts to keep xylitol products out of the reach of their animals.

For more information, here's a link to the FDA's warning on this subject.


Medical uses of xylitol.


Because xylitol is absorbed more slowly than sucrose (table sugar), it does not contribute of elevated blood sugar levels and the associated hyperglycemia caused by an insufficient insulin response. It's glycemic index is 7.


Some research suggests that xylitol consumption may help to increase bone density. If so, some day it may have a use as a treatment for osteoporosis.

Ear and upper respiratory infections

Xylitol may be an aid in preventing ear infections (acute otitis media), by way of having an inhibitory effect on the bacteria that cause this condition.


Input from site visitors.

side effects

I had to stop using Xylitol (1 ts in my coffee in the a.m.) altogether. It was the cause of serious digestive trouble. (Not so much diarrhea, but bloating and often severe discomfort and upset. I want to use it to rinse my mouth however and add it to my homemade toothpaste.

side effects

Thanks for the input Becca. Of course only you can decide what works for (or can be tolerated by) you.

I'm guilty of sipping a beverage (ice tea), possibly as much as 1 glass per hour. So, each of my beverages just gets a sprinkling of xylitol. In fact, I add artificial sweetener to each glass for its sweetening effect, the xylitol is just for my teeth.

Possibly spreading my dosing out throughout the day makes it so I don't experience the types of problems you do. Of course, not everyone has a daily schedule where multiple beverages are possible.

If not, they might put their total daily dosing of xylitol in a water bottle and take small servings from it (sip, swish and swallow) throughout the day.

I cut my dose down.

I had problems tolerating the xylitol at first. I reduced the amount I used each time (in coffee) and things settled down. I have no problems now. Sue.

Tongue pain

It seems xylitol hurts my tongue. And I do not use a lot of it. I place 1/2 tsp of granulated xylitol under my tongue to melt, then use saliva to swish 4 times a day. I spit it out and do not drink water for 1/2 an hour. I was told to make rinse with water will dilute it. Am I right?

Pui lin

We're not going to have an answer for you about why you notice what you do. While rare, you may be a person who experiences an allergic reaction to xylitol. If so, then there is no solution other than discontinuing its use.

Keep in mind, Xylitol is just one way to help to prevent cavities. They can still be kept in check via other methods like proper brushing and flossing (which is mandatory) and fluoride use (another prevention adjunct). So if you're the case where xylitol useage creates a problem, at least you tried and you should quit using it and focus your efforts elsewhere.

It did cross our mind that even just a 1/2 teaspoon of xylitol isn't all that small of an amount. Possibly the momentary dryness it creates irritates the soft tissues under your tongue.

If that is the situation, mixing your dose with water and using it as a rinse seems a likely solution. Or sprinkling it on and into the foods and beverages you eat might also be a way of continuing with it.


Thought you might be interested in knowing that I have invented and patented a xylitol toothpaste that is 49% xylitol by weight. My unique manufacturing process makes this possible. I pre-pasted and wrapped some 60,000 brushes and provided them to a school of 300 students for two years. It was an entirely successful program. I taught the children how to properly brush. My paste does not need water or require spitting which allows the children to brush anywhere. I have had to suspend production for lack of resources to continue. If any one is interested my email is: [email protected]



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